Hay fever – symptom, causes, risk factors and complications

Hay fever symptoms

This condition is also known as allergic rhinitis. It is causing cold – like signs and symptoms such as sinus pressure, sneezing, congestion, itchy eyes and runny nose. Cold is caused by a virus but the hay fever is not caused by it. This condition is caused by an allergic response to indoor or outdoor allergens, such as dust mites, pollen or tiny flecks of skin and saliva shed by dogs, cats and other animal with feathers or fur. [1] This condition can make you miserable and also it can affect your performance at school or work and generally it can interfere with your life. You do not have to put up with the annoying symptoms of hay fever. You can learn to avoid the triggers and to find the right treatment for your condition. Hay fever last as long as you are exposed to allergens compared to cold which last from three to seven days. The onset of hay fever is immediately after you have been exposed to allergens while the onset of cold is one to three days after exposure to a cold virus.

Symptoms of hay fever

Here are some signs and symptoms of hay fever:

  • Fatigue
  • Postnasal drip
  • Swollen, blue – colored skin under the eyes (allergic shiners)
  • Itchy nose, roof of mouth or throat
  • Cough
  • Sneezing
  • Watery, itchy, red eyes (allergic conjunctivitis)
  • Runny nose and nasal congestion

Seasonal factors: You can hay fever signs and symptoms which can start or worsen at a particular time of the year. Here are some triggers:

  • Spoors from indoor and outdoor fungi and molds are considered both seasonal and perennial [2]
  • Dust mites, cockroaches and dander from pets can occur year – round (perennial). Symptoms to indoor allergens might worsen in winter, when houses are closed up.
  • Ragweed pollen, which is common in fall. [1,3]
  • Grass pollen, which is common in late spring and summer [4]
  • Tree pollen, which is common in early spring.

If you cannot find a relief from the symptoms of hay fever, then you should talk with your doctor. Also if you have noticed that the allergy medications do not provide relief or they are causing you annoying side effects, then talk with your doctor. There are many people, especially children, who get used to hay fever symptoms and they do not seek medical help until their symptoms become severe. But it is very important to get proper medical help because it can help you to rid of the symptoms of hay fever.

Hay fever

Causes of hay fever

When someone has a hay fever, then his immune system identifies a harmless airborne substance as harmful. Then, his immune system produces antibodies to this harmless substance. The next time when someone come in contact with the substance, these antibodies signal his immune system to release chemicals such as histamine in his bloodstream, which is causing a reaction that can lead to the signs and symptoms of hay fever.

Risk factors: Here are some factors which can increase your risk of developing hay fever:

  • Having a mother who smoked during your first year of life [5]
  • Living or working in an environment that constantly exposes you to allergens – such as animal dander
  • Having a blood relative (such as a parent or sibling) with allergies or asthma
  • Having atopic dermatitis (eczema) [6]
  • Having other allergies or asthma [6]

Complications: Here are some problems which can be associated with hay fever:

  • Ear infection: In children, hay fever often is a factor in middle ear infection (the medical term for it is otitis media). [7]
  • Sinusitis: The prolonged sinus congestion due to hay fever can increase your susceptibility to sinusitis which is an infection or inflammation of the membrane which lines the sinuses.
  • Worsening asthma: Hay fever can worsen the signs and symptoms of asthma, such as wheezing and coughing. [6]
  • Poor sleep: Hay fever symptoms can keep you awake or make it hard to stay asleep which is leading to fatigue and a general feeling of being unwell (a condition which is known as malaise). [8]
  • Reduced quality of life: It is known fact that this condition can interfere with the enjoyment of your activities and it can cause you to be less productive. For many people, hay fever symptoms can lead to absences from school or work. [9]


[1] Passali D, Cingi C, Staffa P, et al. The international study of the allergic rhinitis survey: outcomes from 4 geographical regions. Asia Pacific Allergy. 2018;8(1):e7.

[2] Kołodziejczyk K, Bozek A. Clinical distinctness of allergic rhinitis in patients with allergy to molds. Biomed Research International. 2016;2016:3171594.

[3] Kato Y, Akasaki S, Muto-Haenuki Y, et al. Nasal Sensitization with Ragweed Pollen Induces Local-Allergic-Rhinitis-Like Symptoms in Mice. PLoS One. 2014; 9(8): e103540.

[4] Xie ZJ, Guan K, Yin J. Advances in the clinical and mechanism research of pollen induced seasonal allergic asthma. Am J Clin Exp Immunol. 2019; 8(1): 1–8.

[5] Saulyte J, Regueira C, Montes-Martinez A, et al. Active or Passive Exposure to Tobacco Smoking and Allergic Rhinitis, Allergic Dermatitis, and Food Allergy in Adults and Children: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLoS Medicine. 2014 Mar; 11(3): e1001611.

[6] Ahmed A, Becker A. Evaluation of eczema, asthma, allergic rhinitis and allergies among the grade-7 children of Iqaluit. Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology. 2019.

[7] Byeon H. The association between allergic rhinitis and otitis media: A national representative sample of in South Korean children. Scientific Reports. 2019.

[8] Leger D, Bonnefoy B, Pigearias B, et al. Poor sleep is highly associated with house dust mite allergic rhinitis in adults and children. Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology. 2017.

[9] Kalmarzi RN, Khazaei Z, Shahsavar J, et al. The impact of allergic rhinitis on quality of life: a study in western Iran. Biomedical Research and Therapy. 2017;4(9):1629-37.


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